August 2015
What About Websites

Jeffrey Spear - President, Studio Spear

 
Jeff Spear

If you're in business, it's a safe bet that you've got a website. The reasons for their existence, as with their impact, is varied. In my opinion, websites are marketing tools created to satisfy specific business objectives and deliver a measurable benefit.

 

In many cases, websites represent significant technical challenges, especially for marketers who are restricted by limited budgets and/or a narrow understanding of the interactive space. In these cases, websites tend to be stop-gap measures that are basic, template driven environments. More importantly, these sites fail to engage visitors, offer limited information and tend to miss out on the best opportunities that the interactive environment has to offer.

It's important to keep in mind that web technology is no longer new. It's been around long enough to support billions of dollars in direct transactions (e-commerce) or indirectly as part of sales and marketing campaigns. It's no longer a question of "if" you embrace this technology but "how."

VISITING A WEBSITE IS EXPERIENTIAL
While there will be operational and financial issues to consider before you launch or update your website, you have an opportunity to delight your visitors in much the same way as movies, carnivals, television and theme parks. Of course, you'll want to satisfy your business objectives and compel sales at the same time. Keep in mind that concepts related to entertainment, visual stimulation and play can be just as compelling and effective for business as they are in recreation. I find that the generous application of color, dramatic photography and/or illustration, the simplest forms of animation (i.e.: mouseovers, small animated gifs) and sound effects make website visitors feel welcome and more inclined to prolong their stay.

EFFECTIVE WEBSITES ARE ALSO USER FRIENDLY
It's important to remember that there are a lot of people who are still quite uncomfortable or justifiably cautious when it comes to web based communications. It's your job, therefore, to make your website approachable, easy to understand and simple to navigate. It's equally important to guarantee a secure environment so that, during valuable transactions, confidential information is not exposed to the world. A few items I consider "must haves" are 1) obvious and clearly defined navigation channels; 2) a site map; and 3) a "contact us" link that fully discloses company information (names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses).

There are some companies that hide their contact information. It's been my experience that, if you want to engage with your customers and attract business, the best way to facilitate dialogue is to provide complete and full disclosure of contact information.

As mentioned, a site map is always a good idea. No matter how logical and cleverly designed you believe your website is, there will always be someone who doesn't "get it." While I believe the majority of visitors will rely upon the navigation pathways you've designed, offering an immediate remedy for lost and frustrated visitors is important. Keep in mind that the website is there to support sales. Providing a site map is simply another way to help potential customers find what they want and bring them closer to a completed sale. Don't forget, when it comes to websites, your competitors are just a click away.

No matter how well your site is designed, or how engaging the encounter, your site must be engineered in a manner that ensures proper delivery and a consistent experience for all visitors. This means that, once the look and feel is established, the HTML code must be compatible with all sorts of hardware, software and speeds of connection. While sophisticated introductory animations and lots of photos may be impressive, it won't matter if the site fails to download properly or is incompatible with the visitor's computer. If a poorly resolved website generates feelings of frustration, that very same emotion could negatively impact upon your brand and minimize sales.

According to Jan Pilant, President, Fairwinds Technologies, "I believe (web) engineering must be resolved with the same level of integrity and attention to detail as your brand. If an online presence is part of your marketing plan, anticipating how your website functions is just as important as what it will look like and what it contains."

Please remember that effective websites are developed in response to specific business objectives. Accordingly, it's fair to expect reasonable and measurable outcomes measured in terms of increases. These can be increases in visitor numbers, email inquiries and sales as well as an improved level of brand awareness and understanding. When websites are well designed and efficiently engineered, they are also highly productive and generate meaningful returns on investment.


 

If the time has come to overhaul, update and re-invigorate your brand image, or you'd like to change up your marketing program, please call 866 787 8761 - ask for Jeff Spear. You can also contact Jeff via email: jeff@studiospear.com.

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